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Lost landscapes of the market gardeners : a qualitative historical GIS examination of the demise of the Chinese and Japanese market gardening industries in the north and central Okanagan Valley, British Columbia, 1910s-1950s Kyle, Catherine Jane


Chinese and Japanese market gardeners in the north and central Okanagan Valley, British Columbia, Canada operated farms of various sizes growing vegetables for both the local and distant markets for over a century and a half. The relationship between these market gardeners and the dominant (white) society varied over time; political circumstances beyond the valley and even beyond Canada’s borders contributed to the tumultuous nature of the local market gardening industry. Yet despite these challenges the industry was widely supported and endured for many decades. Eventually most of the market gardens closed and the industry ceased to have a visible presence on the landscape. Despite the important role that these market gardeners played in helping to establish the Okanagan as an agricultural centre, their contributions are often overlooked and the agricultural history of this valley remains ostensibly white. Focused on the period from the 1910s through the 1950s, this research demonstrates that a complex array of governance, technological innovation, infrastructure development, and a changing population demographic, combined with a lack of a stable land base, precipitated the demise of the Chinese and Japanese market gardening industry. There were five approaches to data collection: archival research, cultural expert interviews, careful examinations of written reminiscences and local histories, site visits, and embodied research. Historical GIS provided the structure for organizing and analysing information acquired through the data collection process; landscape phenomenology provided the theoretical structure for interpreting the results of the GIS and qualitative data analysis. A changing population demographic resulted in labour issues and increasing density led to greater pressure on available land. Race-based government legislation played an important role in the ability of Chinese to survive in the market gardening industry; for both Chinese and Japanese increased government control on the industry coincided with the overall decline. Improved and expanded transportation systems made distribution of Okanagan produce easier, but also resulted in easier importing of cheaper vegetables from elsewhere, which also coincided with increased use of refrigerators and grocery stores. Small farm operations were often unable to invest in technological improvements that would allow them to remain competitive.

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